Headlines Politics Scary

Britain Votes ‘Maybe’

On Thursday the UK turned out in their droves to cast their votes on the UK’s membership of the EuropeanUnion and  unanimously said in one voice, “we’re still not really sure about any of this.”

The historic referendum has returned an overwhelming ‘maybe’ vote, with 52% in favour of leaving and 48% against.

With both sides of the debate populated by compulsive liars who are amongst the least trustworthy in the country, it’s little wonder the population at large had no real idea which way to turn.

Confused Brexit voter Steve Anderson said, “with the remain side championed by a public schoolboy whose mum still cuts his hair and a slimy delinquent who does unspeakable things with farm animals, I’m afraid I had to take the Leave side.

“I mean, I don’t really understand a lot of what Boris Johnson says, but he’s such a lovable oaf you can’t help but side with him.”

On the flip side, Remain voter Jonathan Bradley said, “as I don’t really know which side’s specious arguments to trust, it was sensible to vote to leave things as they are until we actually figure out what’s going to happen. That just seems like the really obvious thing to do.”

Despite the closeness of the result, expert David Mango said the UK will run ahead and leave the EU anyway.

“Ruining the lives of the majority of the population based on the poor decision making of fifty-two percent of voters is one of the fundamental tenets our democracy is based on,” he said.

Leaving the EU is still not a certainty however. Government sources have suggested that due to the closeness of the vote other options are being considered, including splitting the country in two along the 52nd parallel, near Birmingham, giving Remain voters the southern half and allowing the Brexiters to inhabit the northern half as far from Europe as possible.

“The problem with that,” said our source, “is that Scotland will probably be an independent country and part of the EU by the end of the decade, so the anti-Europe population will find themselves sandwiched between two European countries they want no part of.

“Really, if they want to leave Europe, they should just go live somewhere that isn’t in Europe.

“I hear the property values in Venezuela are particularly favourable.”

Our source was keen to stress that the main thing to remember is that for now, we technically remain part of the Euopean Union, so there is absolutely no need to panic, even as the stock markets and the value of the pound crashes down around us.

Positives were taken however in the 72% turnout. Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor, said, “it just goes to show that if people consider one of the options on the ballot paper as palatable they’ll actually turn up and vote.”

Media Politics Scary Technology

Illusion of Choice

This infographic seems to be doing the rounds today. It is mostly US-centric but a similar sort of thing is present in our own media, albeit not to quite the same alarming extent. This is, however, the very thing that The Whimpering Pen, had I ever gotten it off of the ground, was going to be highlighting (it may return as an Xmas project, who knows, but since the phone hacking scandal it doesn’t seem as ground-breaking).

You might have guessed this wasn’t going to be an entirely self-penned post owing to the fact that it has catchy headline for once.

[via The Loop]

Media Consolidation Infographic

Source: Frugal dad


Law Life On the Road Politics

Speed camera removal 'significant factor' in road death?

Photo: t0msk (Flickr)

Yes yes, I know this looks like a news post. But it isn’t.

Turns out a coroner has stated that the turning off of a speed camera played a major role in the death of a 19-year-old in Somerset. From the BBC News article:

A Somerset coroner has said the turning off of a speed camera was a significant factor in a fatal car crash.

In a letter to the county council, West Somerset coroner Michael Rose said the death of 19-year-old Billy Davis “in part may have been prevented”.

Mr Davis died on the A370 at East Brent in September 2010 near a camera which had been disabled weeks earlier.

Now, any regulars to this blog will know that I am not all that keen on speed cameras. Maybe some of you are thinking that I may be about to rescind my previous comments and agree that yes, speed cameras can save lives.

But take a look at the paragraph that follows that quote above.

An inquest found Mr Davis had been one-and-a-half times over the drink-drive limit when he died and had been driving at speeds between 60mph to 70mph in a 40mph area.

Right. So what we appear to be claiming now is that speed cameras can detect drunk drivers or that an intoxicated driver will be able to slow down and react safely when he unexpectedly comes across a speed camera.

It is far more likely that a speed camera would have expedited the death of the chap in question. A drunk driver slamming on the breaks would lose control and is more likely crash into the camera than be saved by it.

It’s an increasing problem that no-one in this country seems to want to take responsibility for their own actions. It is really rather worrying however when a coroner of all people seems to think that the blame for an accident lies with the as much with the lack of a speed camera as with a drunk driver going at almost twice the speed limit.

Life Politics

Democracy Doesn't Work

I often find myself at this time of year proclaiming that democracy doesn’t work. In fact, my very first post on this blog was almost exactly a year a go, when I looked at the voting breakdown of the general election with a similar sentiment. In case you’re wondering where it came from, it’s actually a Simpsons quote.

Unfortunately, with each passing year I think I’m beginning to believe it more and more.

For a start, for the last year we’ve had a government that nobody voted for. Of course, the Americans had that for eight years, but then we mocked them for it. Incessantly. They tried to make up for it by electing a black man as their next president, but that only led to even more political division among the populace and the forming of a large group of people who still chose to believe that their president isn’t even eligible for the post because they don’t think he was born in their country (and why would he have been, seeing as how he looks so different). So then, it turns out that although America isn’t as racist as we used to think, it’s still pretty fuckin’ racist.

In this country, after twelve months of a government that nobody voted for, or even actually wanted at all, we had the choice to vote to remove the voting system that was partly responsible for the situation (that and the fact that very few of the parties were worth voting for which helped expose the holes in the system). What did we do? Aside from the fact that only a little over a third of us actually bothered to go out and participate in the vote, most of those that did decided that they liked the old system well enough, thanks.

Now, I admit, the main thing that swayed me into voting in favour of the alternative vote system (apart from working in another form of ‘AV’) was in fact the ‘No’ advertising campaign, who used a tactic almost on par with saying “see this kitten? This cute, loving kitten? Vote how we say or we’ll kill the kitten.” That and the fact that none of their arguments held up to scrutiny (in a race, isn’t the winner the one who comes first, they said. Yes, except this is a vote, not a fucking race). Oh yes, and they never actually denied the claim from the yes camp that AV was actually fairer.

I’m getting off the point a little bit here. I’m actually meaning to talk about democracy, and why it doesn’t work, rather than bemoaning our voting habits, although the two are obviously linked.

For a start, democracy is built on the simple tenet that every person gets a vote, and are free to do with it what they please (including not using it, but limited to not giving it to someone else). Unfortunately this premise overlooks two other very important tenets which I think need to be considered:

  1. People are lazy.
  2. People are stupid.

You should never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers (oh look, another Siimpsons quote). The fact that the The Sun is the most read newspaper and the X Factor is the most watched TV show in the UK goes to show that we have a significant number of – how can I put this politely? I can’t. Anyway they’re there, and there’s plenty of them, and they all have a vote each.

Fair enough, you might say, everyone’s equal so they all get a vote. Except, as I’ve noted before, everyone isn’t equal. Douglas Adams said it best: “All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.” Some people, because of age, experience or teaching, are in a position to make a far better and well-informed judgement than others.

So what do we do? Well, we could do what we should be doing with drivers’ licenses and gun ownership and impose a minimum IQ requirement. Or, we could not open polling stations in Woking since living there is a sign that you are not of sound mind and judgement (did I say Woking? Sorry, I meant places like Woking, only without a fair chunk of my readers living there).

These are all potentially viable ideas, but all still battling with the overriding principle of trying to be democratic, or at least something approaching it.

Nope, I think we need a far more drastic change to our political system. Democracy doesn’t work, but dictatorships get shit done. I read somewhere that empires like Rome simply could not have stuck together as long as they did without a single person able to make the difficult decisions when it mattered. I don’t remember where I read that but I’m reasonably sure that one’s not a Simpsons quote.

The only tricky part is finding the right kind of person to be the sole ruler. Too soft, and chaos will reign; too hard and we’ll be too restricted to get anything done; too stupid and the whole thing will fall apart like a woman attempting to assemble flatpack furniture (did I just say that? Sorry that was horribly mean and sexist of me. Let me come up with another one: like, I dunno, something quite likely to fall apart).

Don’t worry though, I have the perfect person in mind (no, not me, I’m too hard, too soft and too stupid). There’s only one person who can be smart enough to know the right path, strong enough to tread that path, and yet still gentle enough to have the support of his people. And that person is (hang on, I just want to return to the ‘falling apart’ joke. Did you notice how the ‘falling apart’ but referred to both the mental state of the woman and also the physical state of the furniture she was building? It’s clever, it’s not my fault it’s sexist).

Where was I? Oh right, our ruler. Well, it just has to be Stephen Fry, doesn’t it?

We praise you, oh mighty benevolent ruler




[v. dih-skrim-uh-neyt; adj. dih-skrim-uh-nit] verb, -nat·ed, -nat·ing, adjective

–verb (used without object)

to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing on the basis of the group, class, or category to which the person belongs rather than according to actual merit; show partiality: The new law discriminates against foreigners. He discriminates in favour of his relatives.


to note or observe a difference; distinguish accurately: to discriminate between things.


So, it appears that insurance companies are no longer allowed to discriminate against people based on their gender.

Interesting idea.

It won’t work, of course. The problem is insurance is an area where you’re allowed to discriminate. That’s the point. You’re working with odds, charging an insurance premium based on the likelihood that you’ll have to pay out. It’s what keeps insurance costs so low for low-risk groups. This is basically going to hurt people less likely to crash whilst helping those more likely to.

This worries me a little. Not because of changing insurance premiums, I haven’t owned a car since last summer. But I’m reminded of a favourite book of mine by Rob Grant called Incompetence, a detective story set in a United States of Europe in which nobody can be “prejudiced from employment for reason of age, race, creed or incompitence”. It’s a story – one of the funniest books I’ve ever read – which I often think of when Europe starts stopping us from discriminating against the people we should be discriminating against.

Discrimination is good, people. Not all discrimination obviously, but most is fine. We’re all different. People claim they want to be treated equally but they don’t really mean it; either that or they haven’t thought it through properly.

Single sex toilets are discriminatory. Disabled parking spots are discriminatory. Film ratings are discriminatory. Ten items or less checkouts at the supermarket are discriminatory (if you try to tell me it’s ‘ten items or fewer’ I’ll stick a spanner up your nose).

You see where I’m going with this.

We have to discriminate, because we’re all different.

The only good that might come out of this is it could spell the end of those horrible Sheila’s Wheels ads.


Running the Risk again the police have decided they want to clamp down on lawbreakers without analysing the reason why so many people are taking such risks.

I’m talking of course about the new police monitoring vans which are being set up to catch motorists and pedestrians who are running red lights at level crossings.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I approve of such monitoring – of motorists at least – and I’m not arguing the legality of running reds anywhere, especially at level crossings. Unlike speeding, this law actually makes sense.

The problem is that the police have decided they are going to clamp down on such behaviour without asking one very simple and incredibly important question.


Why would people risk their lives to get across a level crossing, knowing full well the dangers?

For the first twenty years of my life I lived very close to a level station. I crossed it every day on the way to school. When the lights started flashing, I would make a run for it, along with many other people.

The simple problem is the timing at many level crossings are badly set up. When you get caught waiting for a train at the lights, it can often be five minutes or more before the train goes past. There’s no reason I can see for that; these days the technology exists to know exactly where a train is and where it’s going, and I don’t know why it hasn’t been incorporated into level crossings.

And it’s five minutes if you’re lucky. Often two trains will go past, adding ten or sometimes even fifteen minutes to your journey. And that is if the gates don’t get stuck down.

The best way to stop motorists risking their lives at level crossings is not to ‘inform them of the dangers’ – because that isn’t working. Maybe monitoring the crossings like this will, but I’m sure it’ll only work when the van is there and visible. No, the best way to stop motorists running the risk is to improve the operation at level crossings so they are less of a nuisance for people on the roads.


Back to Speed Cameras

This morning BBC news (or at least, BBC Breakfast) returned to the subject of speed cameras. More are being switched off as a cost cutting scheme; this time due to the austerity measures and less a statement by individual councils.

Breakfast, as they often do, asked for peoples’ thoughts, and since very little has changed since I made this post last summer, I basically copy and pasted it wholesale into their Facebook comments page and left it at that (I probably should’ve proofread it first, but hey-ho).

I actually received quite a positive response; it is (at time of writing) the most liked comment on the subject, and someone actually agreed with me enough to send me a message saying how much he agreed with me.

I guess that means I’ve reached the first important milestone for a blog: people actually care about what I write… now, the next step, which is… um…

Politics Scary

Cycle Hire Scheme: the last thing we need is more cyclists in London who don't know what they're doing

Okay, I’ll admit it from the off: The London Cycle Hire scheme hasn’t started as badly as I thought it would. It does still worry me that the powers that be (such as they are) don’t seem to have considered the dangers inherent with the scheme.

For a start, we have enough problems with cyclists in London these days as it is, darting in and out of traffic, cycling on pavements and speeding through pedestrian crossings with little care of anyone’s safety. They also have a habit of getting crushed under lorries, something which the lorry driver is usually blamed for despite the fact it was probably an undertaking cyclist in the wrong place that got them killed. Cyclists do seem to have this high-and-mighty attitude that says ‘I cycle, therefore I can do what I want’, helped by a lot of advertising that paints a rosy picture of the health and environmental benefits of cycling. But I digress (as I often do).

The problem I have with it is this: The Cycle Hire Scheme will only serve to put more, inexperienced cyclists on the road, whilst at the same time (and this is the bit that really worries me) not providing even that most basic of safety equipment, a helmet. The main plus is that these inexperienced cyclists, being, as they always are, inexperienced, are not as aggressive on the road and the few I’ve seen seem to behave a little better.

Don’t get me wrong (a phrase I often find myself typing on this blog, usually a sign that I should really redraft everything because I’ve spent ages ranting), in principle it is a good idea, much the same way the car pool services (such as Streetcar of which I am a member) can be beneficial by saving people money whilst at the same time stopping them from using their cars or carrying bikes on crowded commuter trains, but I do fear that the Cycle Scheme hasn’t really been thought all the way through. I hope I’m wrong.


With a little less Gatso

I really hate the way that people who exceed the speed limit are vilified so much. Speed limits are an antiquated way of controlling traffic, fundamentally flawed as they are based on the misguided tenet that speed kills. Speed doesn’t kill; bad driving kills. It is perfectly possible to drive at speed safely. Where it all falls down is when people, bad drivers, drive too fast for the conditions of the road or without consideration for potential hazards such as school children, or swerving in and out of lanes on the motorway. The problem comes with the fact that you can set up a camera easily to measure speed, but it is not so easy to measure bad driving, without putting policemen on patrol.

Speed limits, then, can be seen as another example of the nanny state, telling people what to do because they’re not smart enough to figure it out for themselves. Static speed limits are silly anyway since they do not take into account the conditions of the road.

Take, for example, the national speed limits on the motorways. Even today it is 70mph, a limit introduced when cars were little more than boxes on wheels and vehicle safety was not even thought of. Today’s cars are far safer, capable of safely achieving higher speeds, and decelerating far quicker. Unless there are police about, the only people going 70mph are the people in the slow lane, whilst those in the fast lane are usually hitting 90 or 100mph, and doing it safely. Why? Because they’re driving courteously, sensibly, and in line with the traffic flow and the road conditions.

What makes me bring this up, of course, are reports today that the few councils in the country brave enough to turn off their speed cameras have seen an increase in speeding at some of the camera locations. The emphasis is added because there doesn’t actually seem to be any reports of an increase in accidents at those locations, just an increase in people driving faster. People who, if the camera was switched on, would drive past it either paying more attention to their speedo than the road, or slamming on their brakes glancing around for a speed limit not noticing they’re about to be rear-ended by someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I approve of the idea of speed cameras in certain locations, mainly outside schools or, more importantly, at sections of road with unexpected hazards such as deceptively tight bends or sudden dips in the road. But these cameras should be clearly signposted, highly visible with flashing lights and dedicated warning signs (not just the signs we have now, which effectively say ‘there’s a camera somewhere, but we won’t say where’), with the speed limit marked clearly on the actual camera so there can be no confusion. Maybe then road users will believe it when ‘they’ say that speed cameras are there for our safety, not to make money out of us.


On Majorities and Interpretations

David Cameron outside No. 10It seems that it has come to pass. David Cameron is the new Prime Minister of these isles.

I’m not ashamed to say, I’m not particularly pleased with this turn of events. I voted Liberal Democrat in order to stop this very thing happening. That said, I’m quite pleased that the LibDems have gotten somewhere and that Nick Clegg is Deputy PM. Time will tell how well this little coalition will last.

It did however get me thinking. Yes, I feel that my vote has been somewhat wasted because the very thing I voted against has come to pass. But surely, the vast majority of people who voted either Labour or LibDem were voting against Cameron, weren’t they? Labour and the Liberals have always had more in common either of them have with the Conservatives, so in many constituencies people would usually quite readily vote for either one or the other in order to keep what my dad describes as “the Tory toe rags” out. This is something Nick Clegg appears to have sadly forgotten.

Now if that’s the case, surely the sums can be looked at this way: Labour and the Liberals between them had 315 seats, the Tories 306. In my book, that’s 315 constituencies voting to not have David Cameron as PM, compared to 306 voting for him. Or, in the slightly fairer way of looking at raw voting figures, 10,706,647 people voted for the Conservatives, whilst 15,432,296 people voted against them. Surely that should be taken into account?

But of course, that is not the way of things. For a start, our voting system – unlike the Americans’ – means you vote for your local representative, and that then goes on to decide who gets the big job. The only people who voted for or against David Cameron in a real sense were the people of Witby, his constituency. In America you have separate votes, you chose your President, and your local representative, in different polls.

We also vote for, rather than against, in polls, making the simple case of more is more decide the election.

Oh well. Not much can be done now. Time will tell if this coalition will last a full term or if it will all fall apart in a matter of months. I just hope the public have the sense to protest when the Tories inevitably start trying to do things they shouldn’t.

I leave you with a simple, paraphrased quote from Douglas Adams: anyone capable of getting themselves elected as Prime Minister should on no account be allowed to do the job.